Would Ole have signed if Shearer became a Red?

Thursday 29 July 2021 08:00

Things could have panned out so differently back in the summer of 1996, when Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson decided to improve his striking options.

Alan Shearer had been a target ever since breaking through at Southampton but his excellent form at Blackburn Rovers, which included winning the 1994/95 Premier League title, and outstanding Euro 96 campaign for England, had suggested he would score goals by the bucketload at Old Trafford.

The difficulty was in pulling off the transfer. Blackburn were clearly not keen to sell to United, yet reports persisted that a world-record deal could be brokered. 

Alan Shearer celebrates a rare win at Old Trafford - in the 1998 FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United.

However, Newcastle United decisively entered the frame and managed to stump up enough cash to land the £15 million striker.

Years later, ex-Reds chairman Martin Edwards revealed: "Shearer had been to Alex Ferguson’s house, spoken to him and assured him he wanted to come. The problem, I think, was the Blackburn chairman Jack Walker did not want him to come to United. Shearer was quite close to Walker, who was like a father figure to him, and I don't think Alan wanted to upset him by coming to United."

Shearer himself recalled: "At one point, I was going to Manchester United. Then I got a call from [Newcastle manager] Kevin Keegan and thought: 'You know what, I'm going to go back to Newcastle'. It was the club I always supported and wanted to play for."

While all the transfer wrangling was going on, Ferguson had been alerted to the potential of little-known Molde forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by Jim Ryan, who had scouted a Norway game to keep tabs on Ronny Johnsen.

At £1.5 million, it was still a gamble but, as the terrace chant goes, Shearer may have been dearer but this rookie marksman was also a dead-eyed finisher who would grow into one of United's favourite sons.

Yet the question remains: Would Ole have even joined the Reds, had the deal to buy the Blackburn star gone ahead as planned?

On 29 July 1996, an iconic United career began


Here's everything you need to know about a feature-length interview with Ole, which is out from 17:00 BST.

When asked about the developments on 29 July 1996, and whether Shearer's situation would have blocked his own move, our current boss replied: "No, no. I’ve never been the type to worry about others, and what they do. Of course, Alan Shearer is one of the best strikers to have played in England, but I’ll take a challenge.

“If he’d signed, I’d have easily signed and felt confident that I could make an impact because I was very confident in my own abilities as a goalscorer."

That sets the record straight. Who could have foreseen then the connection Ole would go on to have with the club and our fans?